Green living is not just relegated to the home. Making a few basic green office moves collectively adds up to a great change. Here are seven simple ways to be greener in your workplace and feel like an eco-hero.
1. Print on recycled paper.
The higher the percentage of post-consumer content, the better. Using recycled paper is so smart. Paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin fibers conserves loads of trees, energy and water, and it prevents air pollution because it requires less energy to produce.
Try looking at it this way: According to Environmental Defense and Conservatree, it takes about 24 trees to make a ton (2,000 pounds) of standard (20-pound) virgin printer/copy paper, which is 40 cartons of paper. One carton weights 50 pounds. That means that one tree yields 83 pounds and that each tree produces only 1 2/3 cartons of paper!
Americans use 14 million tons of printer/copy paper for a year, about 93 pounds for each person in the United States. That’s a lot of paper. Some offices use more and others, less. For instance, according to the American Bar Association, a large law firm might go through two cartons of paper per lawyer per year which is more than a whole tree per person every year.
2. Print on both sides of the paper.
Many computer printers allow double-sided printing. If yours doesn’t, but your software allows you to print alternating pages, figure out how your printer pulls pages from the paper tray. Then print the odd-numbered pages of your document first, properly reorient the printed pages and print the even-numbered pages on the back. Done. A lot of photocopiers also have a double-sided option–use it.
3. Recycle ink and toner cartridges.
Most office supply stories will happily take ink and toner cartridges off your hands, and some offer free paper or discounts on future purchases in exchange. But used cartridges are valuable enough that companies and recycling organizations will buy them back. Ch-ching! Or, to practice socially responsible recycling, donate empty cartridges to support a good cause–there are many out there that need help.
Here are a few organizations to contact:
eCycle Group. This recycling company will pay you for your used printer and fax cartridges and cell phones.
FreeRecycling. This recycler also pays for ink cartridges and cell phones. A new program offers a route for recycling CDs and DVDs too.
Recycle for Breast Cancer Program. This program accepts a variety of electronic items as well as printer cartridges nationwide. It’ll even take large things like computers and television sets at its San Ramon, Calif., recycling center.
4. Use your computer’s power-saving or energy-saving mode by setting it to “sleep” when it will not be used for a short period of time.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning off a typical computer when it’s not in use can save $186 a year in electricity and prevent 1 1/2 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Note: Screen savers are not energy savers–a screen saver uses more energy than the sleep mode does.
5. Use a laptop computer.
A laptop uses about one-quarter of the energy than a desktop computer does.
6. Rely on Smart Strip power strips.
Computers and their peripherals–like printers and scanners–eat up energy even when they are turned off. It is called idle current and it can draw up to 40 percent of full power. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that nationwide, the idle current of electronics adds up to the output of 17 power plants annually.
Smart Strip power strips have advanced circuitry that can sense the flow of the electrical current to any device, like a computer, that is plugged into it. A Smart Strip can tell when you turn off your computer and will automatically shut off the peripherals that are also plugged into it. They also offer excellent power surge protection and line noise filtering, and they’re excellent for TVs and entertainment equipment.
7. Go for recycled and eco-friendly office supplies.
Look for pens made with recycled plastics or bioplastics, pencils made with Forest Stewardship Council–certified wood from sustainably managed forests, paper clips and mouse pads made from recycled content, and scissors with recycled plastic handles. You can find these items and more at www.thegreenoffice.com. Or read about the Green Seal’s Choose Green Report here.
Adapted from Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices For You and Your Home, by Renee Loux.